An Analysis of Wolf Habitat Distribution in Response to Forest Fire Risk in Algonquin Provincial Park Using GIS
Habitat loss is a growing issue that affects the home ranges of Algonquin wolves (Canis lycaon) in Algonquin Provincial Park. Habitat loss is caused by many factors, including anthropogenic activities, stochastic events, and climate change. As such, wolves are becoming more and more restricted in regards to the amount of suitable habitat available for den sites. With issues including climate change and increasing human impact, disturbance to natural ecosystems is on the rise. For example, forest fires are increasing in frequency and are becoming a major threat to wildlife by reducing already limited habitat. Models have been created to study wolf population dynamics, while other models have been created to model the behaviour of wildfires. This project develops a Geographic Information System (GIS) model using a multi-criteria analysis (MCE) that predicts area of suitable habitat for Algonquin wolves within Algonquin Provincial Park to determine the proportion of viable habitat at low risk for loss due to wildfire. Four main factors were identified: proximity to water, proximity to roads, land cover, and slope. Using these factors, the model was able to identify 21.8% of Algonquin Park as suitable habitat without considering regions at high risk of wildfire. Suitable habitat decreased to 8.7% of the park when the wildfire risk layer was incorporated, showing significant habitat loss with imposed fire risk. This study provides a valuable insight towards potential habitat distributions of a keystone species within Algonquin Provincial Park. The analysis also gives insight for future management and conservation decisions to be made within the park, regarding species and natural disturbances such as wildfires. This study and future related studies can contribute to resource management decisions and thereby assist with future conservation efforts for valuable natural areas and their residing species.